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VALLEY GANG FEELING THE HEAT INJUNCTION CUTS DOWN ON ACTIVITY.

Byline: TONY CASTRO

Staff Writer

CANOGA PARK -- With antiques stores on each corner boasting collectibles and vintage Tiffany lamps, the intersection of Sherman Way and Alabama Avenue appears an unlikely stomping grounds for a notorious street gang.

At nearby Lanark Park, mothers strolled with their kids while old men played cards and dominoes -- all unafraid that they could be easy prey for gangbangers.

You could drive the 4.65 square miles that authorities have identified as the territory of the Canoga Park Alabama gang and find no sign of them.

"There was a time a few years ago when you didn't dare come to this park," said 63-year-old Antonio Revalez. "The cholos were in control, but someone cleaned the park out. The cholos are gone."

What apparently cleaned up the park and reduced the presence of the Canoga Park Alabama gang was the 2002 court injunction filed by City Attorney Rocky Delgadillo and enforced by the Los Angeles Police Department and neighborhood prosecutors.

"I've always believed that gang injunctions can be an effective tool in reducing crime," said Delgadillo, "and the Canoga Park Alabama injunction has had an impact in the Canoga Park neighborhood."

Delgadillo said a Los Angeles grand jury report concluded that gang injunctions have shown a 7 percent to 50 percent drop in crime.

The permanent injunction bans the Canoga Park Alabama gang and its members from associating in public with one another and provides police officers with a greater ability to enforce the law.

According to police, authorities have arrested and prosecuted 97 identified Canoga Park Alabama gang members for violating provisions of the injunction.

"Our experience is that gang injunctions suppress the constant intimidation and constant presence of gangs," said Deputy City Attorney Jim McDougal, the lead prosecutor against the CPA gang.

"The gang still exists because it's a generational thing, but the suppression of their presence at places like the park means you don't have the crime of opportunity that existed in the past."

Nevertheless, Canoga Park Alabama gang was included earlier this week on a list of the city's most violent gangs because its members are responsible for most of the hate crimes in the San Fernando Valley.

"They shoot at innocent people in the Valley, based on their race," said Lt. Tom Smart, head of the LAPD West Valley's gang unit.

Since last July, police logged 14 racially motivated gang shootings. Ten of those cases are suspected of being Canoga Park Alabama gang members shooting at African-Americans.

Now, officials hope the mayor's newly announced anti-gang plan will further intensify the crackdown on the Canoga Park Alabama gang that began with the 2002 injunction.

"The success of the injunction doesn't mean we can't do better and will do better," Delgadillo said.

"Gang injunctions alone are not going to eliminate gangs from our city, and that's what we need to do. Injunctions are just one tool in a very large arsenal."

Local businesses say they've seen a reduction in gang-related crimes.

"We've been broken into in the past -- by the Alabama street gang," Tony Czarnecki said at a sporting goods store on Saticoy Street. "They'd come in through the roof. But now all we've had is graffiti on the side of the building, and somebody comes by and covers it up."

"The goal (was) to take the sidewalks and streets away from the gangsters ... and return it to the community -- and we're not surprised to hear that it's working," said McDougal.

The Canoga Park Alabama gang dates back to the 1930s, law enforcement officials say, its legacy of vandalism, assault, robbery, drug sales and murder escalating as it passed from generation to generation.

The gang, with an estimated membership as high as 400, is now considered the most violent gang in the west San Fernando Valley.

Police say the most active gang members are between the ages of 14 and 18 years old.

"They are the ones who put in the work," said Smart. "They write on the walls, they break into cars and they shoot people."

But the injunction has dramatically reduced their activity, especially in their own hangouts.

"They used to own this park, but it's changed," says Evan Traub, an independent computer programmer, enjoying a lazy afternoon at Lanark Park.

"Maybe it's different at night, but the park closes at 10 p.m. People don't really use most parks at night. It's something they enjoy during the day, and I'm telling you, you can do that now and you couldn't do it before."

tony.castro(at)dailynews.com

(818) 713-3761

CAPTION(S):

photo, map

Photo:

(color) Leonardo Haro, 2, has fun on the slide Friday with his brother, Adam, 3, at Lanark Park.

Michael Owen Baker/Staff Photographer

Map:

Canoga Park Alabama gang boundaries

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Publication:Daily News (Los Angeles, CA)
Date:Feb 10, 2007
Words:795
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